A Toronto judge reprimanded by Ontario’s top court for being tardy with her written decisions has been given the all clear after a review by the Canadian Judicial Council, which found a now-resolved “medical condition” was to blame.
The review of Superior Court Justice Susanne Goodman’s conduct followed the Ontario Court of Appeal’s comments last year regarding her failure to give reasons for acquitting Stanislaw Sliwka of multiple charges of sexual assault, “as well as an apparent pattern of inordinate delays,” a news release from the council issued Thursday said.
Susanne Goodman was criticized by the Court of Appeal, which ordered a new trial in a sex assault case because Goodman failed to provide her reasons for acquitting the accused man.
The high court ordered Sliwka to stand trial again, calling it “a terrible result for everyone involved,” Court of Appeal Justice David Doherty wrote in May 2017.
“The trial judge’s failure to give reasons, despite her repeated promises to do so, has frustrated the proper administration of justice. Nor is this the first time that this trial judge’s failure to provide reasons has required this court to order a new trial. It must be the last time.”
At his retrial this year, Sliwka’s lawyer argued his charges should be stayed because the delay created by the trial judge’s failure to provide reasons had denied him his right to a fair trial.
Superior Court Justice Michael Penny rejected the argument and convicted Sliwka of aggravated assault in July. He returns to court Sept. 11 for a sentencing hearing.
Chief Justice Michael MacDonald, chair of the judicial council’s Judicial Conduct Committee, led the review into Goodman and decided to close the matter after finding she “experienced a medical condition, now resolved, which was at the root of her difficulties,” the council’s news release said.
Goodman and her chief justice have set out a number of specific and comprehensive measures to ensure that she discharges all aspects of her judicial responsibilities in a timely manner, the release said.
“Chief Justice MacDonald notes that the judge now discharges all her judicial duties in an effective and timely manner.”
In closing the matter, MacDonald cautioned that “a superior court judge must have the capacity and ability to perform all of the normal judicial functions that attach to the office. One of these judicial functions is to be diligent in the delivery of reserved judgments, with reasonable promptness. Failure to uphold these obligations can have a detrimental effect on public confidence in the judiciary.”
Given the remedial nature of the judicial conduct process, and taking into account all the circumstances, MacDonald decided that no further measures need be taken in this matter.
Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy